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Manuscripts of Early National and Antebellum America
Copybooks and Ciphering Books

What follows is a list of Early National and Antebellum copybooks and ciphering books from the North American manuscript holdings in the Department of Special Collections, University Libraries of Notre Dame. Copybooks and ciphering books included here date wholly or primarily from the years 1788 to 1860.

  • WILLIAM SLADE CIPHERING BOOKS. ca. 1790s. 2 vols., 31 and 30 cm., 47 and 8 leaves, with 94 and 16 pages of entries in Slade's hand. An inscription on 40v of the more substantial of these two ciphering books reads: "Wm. Slade the 3rd / his Book In the fifteen year of his age / And A little Older… ." The owner probably resided in Bristol County in southeastern Massachusetts. The problems copied into the books relate to topics in mercantile arithmetic. MSN/EA 8804-1 to MSN/EA 8804-2-F1.

  • ABNER WHITE CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1796. 1 volume, 21 cm., 44 leaves, with 84 pages of manuscript. This leather-bound ciphering book bears the inscription (24v) "Abner White his Book Westport [Connecticut] October 4th AD 1796." MSN/EA 8831-1.

  • GEORGE NOLEN CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1800. 1 vol., 35 cm., 33 leaves, with 65 pages of manuscript in the owner's hand. An inscription on the rear cover of this Federal era copybook ("George Nolens Book") is the only indication of ownership. Exercise topics include reduction; decimals and fractions; Federal money; interest; multiplication; division; rules of three; and square and cube roots. An exercise on 3v computes the number of minutes in the Revolutionary War. The book is bound in period wallpaper. MNS/EA 8810-1.

  • RICHARD WEBSTER CIPHERING BOOK. 1801. 1 vol., 32 cm., 88 leaves, with 176 pages of entries in the owner's hand. 1 enclosure. This handmade, cloth-bound ciphering book consists of three fascicles of various sizes that have been stitched together. Folio 70v contains the inscription "Rich Webster Rye May 25th, 1801." "Rye" refers to Rye, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. The problems copied into the book relate to topics in arithmetic. An exercise on 21r computes George Washington's age in 1799. Richard Webster was probably the father of the owner of MSN/EA 8816-1. MSN/EA 8815-1 to MSN/EA 8815-2.

  • WILLIAM GODDARD CIPHERING BOOK. 1806. 1 vol., 30 cm., 56 leaves, with 112 pages of entries in Goddard's hand. William Goddard (1789-1808?), the owner of this primitively bound ciphering book, was a resident of Berlin, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Though the rules and examples are not particularly well executed, many of the titles are accomplished in an ornamental script. Enclosures dated 1827 and 1843 belonging to William's brother Ephraim (1793-1871) are included with the book, in addition to an 1899 letter to an unnamed member of the Goddard family. MSN/EA 8818-1 to MSN/EA 8818-2.

  • ITHIEL ELWELL CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1810. 1 vol., 34 cm., 36 leaves, with 69 pages of entries in the author's hand. Fol. 1r of this homemade, leather-bound ciphering book bears the inscription "Ithiel Elwell / Buxton North". Elwell (1794-1814) was the son of Benjamin and Mehitable Elwell, of Buxton, York County, Maine. The book's exercises are copied with care; content proceeds from decimals, through proportion and fractions, to computations of interest and other topics of obvious mercantile application. MSN/EA 8806-1-B.

  • SUKY NIXON CIPHERING BOOK. 1810-1811. 1 vol., 19 cm., 24 leaves, with 48 pages of manuscript entries in Nixon's hand. A manuscript bookplate attached to the inside upper cover identifies this item as "Suky Nixon's Book, Begun December 10th 1810; aged 13 years and 17 days." The content consists of problems in simple and compound addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Each lesson is meticulously copied; many are dated. The owner probably resided in or near Framingham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. MSN/EA 8800-1.

  • ISAAC RINGWALT CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1814-1817. 33 cm., 86 leaves, with 169 pages of entries in the owner's hand. A ciphering book compiled ca. 1814-1817 by Isaac Ringwalt (1797-1860), son of Jacob Ringwalt and Catharine Diller Ringwalt of New Holland, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In addition to problems in applied arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and surveying, the book includes copies of a number of Ringwalt family land records. MSN/EA 8826-1-B.

  • JOHN JONES CIPHERING BOOK. 1811. 1 volume, 32 cm., 44 leaves, with 89 pages of entries. The front pastedown of the volume features a tipped-in paper heart, bearing the inscription "John Jones. Manuscript. Weston. March 1811". The owner was likely John Jones (1795-1865) of Weston, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Most of the book is given over to mathematics, though pages 71-88 contain handwriting exercises. Some of the titles and other features are ornamented with color. The book is bound in period wallpaper. MSN/MN 8830-1.

  • "ISRAEL" CIPHERING BOOK. 1816. 1 vol., 33 cm., 43 leaves, with 73 pages of entries in the owner's hand. Three enclosures. One of the leaves enclosed in the pages of this book bears the inscription: "Israel / Washington Nine Partners B. School". The Nine Partners Boarding School was a Quaker school located in Washington, Dutchess County, New York. The ciphering book contains exercises in arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry, with dated entries ranging from April to August 1816. Ten pages at the back of the book contain mock land survey notes and related exercises. MSN/EA 8814-1 to MSN/EA 8814-2.

  • SARAH COTTON COPYBOOK AND CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1816. 2 vols., 19 and 33 cm., 18 and 33 leaves, with 99 pages of manuscript in the owner's hand. The copybook is a slim volume of handwriting exercises belonging to Sarah Cotton of Lewiston, Androscoggin County, Maine. It consists mostly of maxims and poems, and must have been executed between its last copied date (1815) and Cotton's marriage to Cornelius Thompson (ca. 1818). There are drawings of a rose and a sunflower inside the front and back marbled covers. The undated ciphering book contains exercises in arithmetic, with topics including multiplication, division, reduction, and the rule of three. MSN/EA 8808-1 to MSN/EA 8808-2.

  • SAMUEL ELDEN CIPHERING BOOK. 1817. 1 vol., 33 cm., 29 leaves, with 58 pages of manuscript in the owner's hand. A ciphering book filled with exercises in arithmetic, kept by Samuel Elden of Buxton, York County, Maine in 1817. The book is bound in period wallpaper. MSN/EA 8813-1

  • WILLIAM TOWE (OR TOWLE) CIPHERING BOOK. 1817-1818. 1 vol., 35 cm., 124 leaves, with 243 pages of manuscript entries in a single hand. The content of this very substantial ciphering book derives from a standard reference of the day, Michael Walsh's A new system of mercantile arithmetic adapted to the commerce of the United States . . . , which appeared in multiple editions over the first quarter of the nineteenth century. A scrawled signature on 123v, and others on the wallpaper wrapped covers, suggest that the owner was a William Towe (or Towle), probably a resident of Massachusetts. The book can be dated to 1817-18. MSN/EA 8807-1-B

  • SEWELL MOODY CIPHERING BOOKS. 1817-1823. 3 volumes; 34, 31, and 32 cm.; 42, 26, and 46 leaves, with 227 pages of manuscript. A group of three ciphering books copied by Sewell Moody (b. 1803) of Lisbon, Androscoggin County, Maine. Moody's name appears throughout the books, with dates ranging from 1817 to 1823. The rules and examples are neatly executed; many of the titles are accomplished in ornamental scripts. MSN/EA 8811-1 to MSN/EA 8811-3.

  • CHASE FAMILY CIPHERING BOOKS. ca. 1820. 2 vols., 33 and 32 cm., 33 and 24 leaves, with 113 pages of manuscript. Two ciphering books owned by James and Mary Chase, who were likely siblings from Standish, Cumberland County, Maine. James's book is dated 1819-1820; Mary's is undated but must have been copied after 1810, as it contains two questions that utilize data from the 1810 census. Both books contain exercises in basic arithmetic, though they were not copied from the same text. James's was copied from A new system of mercantile arithmetic: adapted to the commerce of the United States. . . by John Walsh, while Mary's was taken from The scholar's arithmetic: or, Federal accountant. . . by Daniel Adams. MSN/EA 8822-1 to MSN/EA 8822-2.

  • PARSONS GATES WILLEY CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1820. 1 vol., 19 cm., 16 leaves, with 33 pages of manuscript in the owner's hand. This small copybook, mostly given over to applied arithmetic, was most likely owned by Parsons Gates Willey (1806?-1844) of Ludlow, Hampden County, Massachusetts. The front cover of the store-bought book bears a woodcut of the naval engagement between U.S.S. Constitution and H.M.S. Java (30 December 1812). MSN/EA 8809-1.

  • MOSES HILL CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1820s 1 vol., 32 cm., 24 leaves, with 47 pages of entries in the owner's hand. The first page of this undated ciphering book bears the inscription "The Property/of /Moses Hill"; nothing else is known of the owner. Exercises derive from Dabolls Schoolmaster assistant: Improved and enlarged, being a plain practical system of arithmetic, adapted to the United States. . . , first published in 1814. MSN/EA 8823-1.

  • WILLIAM W. BREWSTER COPYBOOK. 1821. 1 vol., 33 cm., 9 leaves, with 18 pages of manuscript in Brewster's hand. An inscription on the inside cover of this mock ledger reads: "William W. Brewster's / Book / Colchester, March 29th, 1821". The text from which the lessons were copied was Book-keeping, in the true Italian form of debtor and creditor by way of double entry: or, Practical book-keeping, exemplified from the precepts of the late ingenious D. Dowling . . . , which was first published in the United States in 1801 and appeared in multiple editions thereafter. The book is covered in brightly colored period wallpaper. MSN/EA 8819-1.

  • JONATHAN DEAN CIPHERING BOOKS. ca. 1823. 5 vol.; 35, 33, 34, 34, and 34 cm.; 21, 33, 15, 45 and 32 leaves; with 192 pages of entries in the owner's hand. This set of five ciphering books was owned by Jonathan Dean of Raynham, Bristol County, Massachusetts. Dean's name appears throughout the books, but only the first volume is clearly dated (1823). All the volumes contain exercises in arithmetic. An exercise on 17r of the first volume computes the president's salary per day, while another on 45r of the fourth volume computes the time it would take a cannonball to reach the sun. MSN/EA 8821-1 to MSN/EA 8821-5.

  • JOHN D. LANE CIPHERING BOOK. 1824. 1 vol., 32 cm, 22 leaves, with 44 pages of entries in the owner's hand. An inscription on the inside front cover of this book indicates that it was owned by John D. Lane, who began writing in it on 1 January 1824. This volume was the third in a series of copybooks, as is evidenced by an inscription on the final page that reads "The end of the third". Exercise topics include vulgar fractions, simple and compound interest, single fellowship, tare and tret, discount, and square and cube roots. MSN/EA 8825-1.

  • LEWIS REYNOLDS CIPHERING BOOKS. 1826-1827. 2 manuscripts, 34 and 30 cm., 43 and 11 leaves, with 86 and 21 pages of entries in Reynolds' hand. Two ciphering books filled with exercises in arithmetic, kept by Lewis Reynolds of Wayne Township, Montgomery County, Indiana in 1826-27. MSN/EA 8803-1-F1 to MSN/EA 8803-2.

  • WILLIAM A. CARPENTER CIPHERING BOOKS. 1826-1831. 2 volumes; 31 and 34 cm.; 33 and 65 leaves; 179 pages of manuscript. Two ciphering books owned by William A. Carpenter (b. ca. 1814), of Seekonk, Bristol County, Massachusetts. The first volume, consisting of problems in arithmetic, includes dated entries from January and February of 1826. The second volume (whose marbled covers enclose leaves of three distinct sizes, some detached) contains dated entries ranging from 1826 to 1831. MSN/EA 8812-1 to MSN/EA 8812-2.

  • AARON JEWETT CIPHERING BOOK. 1827-1835. 1 vol., 31 cm., 23 leaves, with 46 pages of entries in the owner's hand. Aaron Jewett was born in 1810 in Solon, Somerset County, Maine. His ciphering book is newspaper-bound and contains date inscriptions ranging from 1827 to 1835. The cover newspaper is dated 9 December 1828. Lessons in the book derive from William Kinne's A short system of practical arithmetic: compiled from the best authorities. . . . This text was published in Maine, and appeared in numerous editions over the first third of the 19th century. MSN/EA 8824-1 to MSN/EA 8824-2.

  • PETER H. GILBERT CIPHERING BOOK. 1828-1834, 1844-1845. 1 volume, 33 cm., 53 leaves, with 108 pages of entries; enclosures. A ciphering book owned by Peter Haas Gilbert (1816-1901) of West Goshen Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Exercises date from December 1828 to 1834; there are also business records from 1844-45. MSN/MN 8829-1.

  • ALDEN DAVIS CIPHERING BOOK. ca. 1830. 1 vol., 32 cm., 30 leaves with 59 pages of entries in the owner's hand. This wallpaper covered ciphering book contains various exercises in arithmetic. Davis's name appears multiple times throughout the book, and an inscription on an enclosure indicates his location as "Rochester"—probably the town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. On 17r Davis began copying a lesson on compound division but left it unfinished and filled the page with drawings of ships. MSN/EA 8817-1 to MSN/EA 8817-2.

  • JACOB R. CRIPLIVER MANUSCRIPTS. 1834-1846. 2 manuscripts, 31 and 32 cm.; 28 and 105 leaves, with 56 and 210 pages of entries in Cripliver's hand. Jacob R. Cripliver was born c1816 in Congress Township, Wayne County, Ohio. The earlier of these manuscripts is a copybook, filled with handwriting exercises completed by Cripliver from August to October 1834. The second, and larger, manuscript was initially used as a ciphering book, with 108 pages of arithmetic problems (October 1834 to June 1835) and 46 pages of day book and ledger exercises (March to December 1838). Much of the remainder of the volume is a working day book, of 25-30 pages, kept by Cripliver from 1839 to 1846. MSN/EA 8801-1 to MSN/EA 8801-2-B.

  • ISAAC WHITE CIPHERING BOOK. 1838-1843. 1 vol, 36 cm., 82 leaves, with 164 pages of entries in White's hand. A ciphering book accomplished by Isaac White (b. 1823) of Alfred, Allegany County, New York. White's name appears on 3v and elsewhere; inscribed dates range from 18 March 1838 to 4 January 1843. The content throughout derives from one of the many editions of Daboll's Schoolmaster's Assistant, Improved and Enlarged, first published in 1814. MSN/EA 8827-1.

  • TALLEY FAMILY MANUSCRIPTS. 1839-ca. 1860s. 3 manuscripts, approx. 33 cm.; 82, 12, and 27 leaves, with 164, 24, and 54 pages of entries. Three manuscript books used by two generations of the Talley family of Wayne County, Ohio. The earliest and largest of the manuscripts is a ciphering book, used by Nathan Talley (1819-1895) from 1839 to 1842. It includes exercises in arithmetic, geometry, and accounting. Two later copybooks were used by Nathan Talley's son George (1855-1935); these probably date to the 1860s. MSN/EA 8802-1 to MSN/EA 8802-3.

  • DAVID BOLLINGER PAPERS. 1840-1850. 1 ciphering book; 1 copybook; 17 additional manuscripts. David Bollinger was born on 3 August 1823 in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. His papers include a ciphering book of 185 leaves dating from ca. 1840-1842; a copybook of 34 leaves created ca. 1842-1843; and 17 additional manuscripts relating to his work as a schoolteacher and a Cape Girardeau County constable. MSN/EA 8828-1-B to MSN/EA 8828-8.

  • JAMES MCILWAINE CIPHERING BOOK. 1841. 1 vol., 32 cm., 124 leaves, with 239 pages of entries in McIlwaine's hand. James McIlwaine was born c1824 in Fayette County, Indiana. He began copying lessons into this ciphering book in 1841, when a resident of Union County, Indiana; the final date in the book, around one quarter of the way through (30r), is 22 July of that year. The lessons fall into three main sections, treating, in progression, geometry, algebra, and accounting. The book was clearly a source of pride to its owner. The handwriting and layout are meticulous, and several internal title pages are embellished in watercolor. The "Book Keeping" section includes a coordinated day book, journal, and ledger; the mock accounts are those of a New Orleans merchant. MSN/EA 8805-1-B.

  • RICHARD WEBSTER CIPHERING BOOK. 1847-1848. 1 vol., 35 cm., 24 leaves, with 48 pages of entries in the owner's hand. Richard Webster born in 1833 in Rye, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. He began copying lessons out of Adam's New Arithmetic on 10 December 1847; the final page is dated 25 January 1848. Many of the lesson titles are done in decorative scripts, as is the owner's signature inside the back cover. Drawings of a bird and a quadruped appear above the signature. MSN/EA 8816-1.

  • EDWIN C. JACOBY CIPHERING BOOK. 1850. 1 vol., 31 cm., 20 leaves, with 40 pages of entries in the owner's hand. Numerous inscriptions in this book indicate that it was owned by Edwin Charles Jacoby, a student at the school of Thomas Clark in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Exercise topics include fellowship, custom house allowances, vulgar fractions, square and cube roots, and circular measure. These exercises were copied from Rose's new arithmetic. An explanatory and practical arithmetic, adapted to the business and commerce of the United State . . . , which was first published in 1834 and appeared in subsequent editions throughout the mid-nineteenth century. MSN/EA 8820-1.

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